The fifty-two weeks of comic book reviews for 2012 are now in the history books, and now is the time to list the cream of the crop! In a year that had a lot of triumph and tragedy in other realms, it was naturally a year which had its ups and downs in terms of comic books. Naturally this includes material first published from January 1st, 2012 until this past Wednesday. So, without any further dawdling, and listed in alphabetical order…
Top 10 Comics of 2012:
AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #677-700: Written by Dan Slott (with occasional aid by Christos Gage) and with art done by Humberto Ramos, Stefano Caselli, and Guiseppe Camuncoli (among others), this is the third straight year in which this franchise run has been featured in the year end article. While this week’s seemingly 700th and “final” issue of ASM has been a mixed bag which saw a wide range of critical reactions, that doesn’t diminish the great work Slott has done on this title as solo writer. Highlights naturally include the summer event “Ends of the Earth”, the introduction of Alpha, a crossover with Daredevil, the return of the original Hobgoblin as well as perhaps the best executed mind-swap plot in years. 2013 will bring about a sequel series, SUPERIOR SPIDER-MAN, and only the future will see if it will live up to Slott’s body of work on the web-slinger thus far.
ARCHER & ARMSTRONG #1-5: Written by Fred Van Lente and drawn by Clayton Henry and Emanuela Lupacchino. This is the third of Valiant Entertainments’s relaunches of a former property which manages to hit the target on being a “buddy adventure/comedy”. A spiritual sibling of INCREDIBLE HERCULES, this series manages to present the franchise in a brand new way to a new generation of fans without forgetting the roots of what made it memorable in the first place. Highlights include witty banter and bizarre villains such as “The One Percent” and ninja nuns.
AVENGERS ACADEMY #24-39: Written by Christos Gage and drawn by Tom Grummet among other artists. After launching at the start of the “Heroic Age” editorial push, it is a testament to Gage’s skill as a writer that a 3rd tier spin off series starring several B and C-List characters such as Hank Pym, Tigra and Quicksilver alongside a cast of either brand new characters or characters less than a decade old managed to last almost three years and roughly forty issues. While it was forced into some crossover material and some months’ issues seemed to wallow into team-up material or sermonizing, on the whole it was the progressive stories of the core cast which carried this series to fine pastures. Marvel will be fools to not capitalize on these newer characters in future adaptations into other mediums, and it is a book whose value wasn’t always appreciated until it was gone. Its presence will be missed in this column.
BROXO: Written and drawn by Zack Giallongo and published by First Second. It took this creator several years to finish this project, and its major debut was at the New York Comic Con in October. It is a genuinely new and engaging coming of age story set in a fantasy world which borrows on many tropes yet presents them in bold and unique ways. With terrific arc and memorable characters, it is a darling tome which is truly worthy of being “all ages”, from eight to eighty.
DAREDEVIL #8-20: Written by Mark Waid and drawn by Paolo Rivera and Chris Samnee. This year, this incredible relaunch of the “man without fear” has won an Eisner award, which is genuinely well deserved. Waid continues to run with the premise of Daredevil trying to avoid being a grim character, even if his friends are less than convinced and he continues to run into bizarre enemies. Highlights include crossovers with Amazing Spider-Man and Punisher with the “Omega Effect”, a duel against the Mole Man, overcoming a Latverian duke and facing a strange new enemy in Coyote. This is quickly becoming an instantly classic run of a Marvel franchise.
FLEE #1-4: Written by Raphael Moran and drawn by Ed Watson and Marc Borstel. Released via ComiXology with a trade coming from Arcana Studios next month, this is the second major work by this Brooklyn based talent since DREAM REAVERS. It is actually a stronger work involving a cross between “Billy the Exterminator” and “Micronauts” in which a war between insect sized aliens stumbles upon a small neighborhood with a recently divorced exterminator. Offering both epic space action and comedy without offering many cliches, this hopefully will become a cult hit to come.
SAGA #1-8: Written by Brian K. Vaughan and drawn by Fiona Staples. This will likely make the top of many “best of 2012” lists online, and for good reason – the latest Image Comics released creator owned series is one of the best comics of the new decade. Mingling a space opera with “Romeo & Juliet”, SAGA offers many down to earth characters despite having all the trappings and details of a space adventure series. There is little to say about this series which hasn’t been said, besides the fact that it lives up to the hype and it is good to see this genuinely NEW series be received so well in both sales and reviews. It is a must-buy every month.
SCARLET SPIDER #1-12.1: Written by Chris Yost, drawn by Ryan Stegman, Khoi Pham and Reilly Brown. Much as VENOM was the major ASM spin off of 2011, this was the major spin off of ASM for 2012. It took a bit of daring and risk to give the clone character Kaine his own title, and have him don the costume best worn by Ben Reilly, but Yost has managed to make this work via establishing the locale of Houston as well as quickly surrounding Kaine with entertaining supporting characters. Highlights include ninjas, stereotypical Texan superheroes, a bizarre team-up with Venom and the Micronauts, and an inconvenient hang-over. Kaine remains Marvel’s most amusing anti-hero of 2012.
TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES #6-17; TMNT MICRO-SERIES #3-7: Written by Kevin Eastman and Tom Waltz, and drawn by Dan Duncan, Andy Kuhn, Ben Bates and many others. IDW’s revival of the iconic 1980’s franchise has continued into its second year even stronger than its first. Eastman and Waltz seem to be in a perfect harmony when it comes to being able to choose from a wealth of material over 28 years worth of comics, films, and cartoons to pick the best to remake in this retelling of a classic franchise. The characters all have their own voice and interactions remain key, while offering a lot of imagination and martial arts action. The micro-series has been handled by a diverse range of creators which further flesh out and embellish the new Turtle universe being crafted here. This is a textbook example of how to revive a long running series in a new way without losing the essence which many fans enjoy.
X-MEN SEASON ONE: Written by Dennis Hopeless and drawn by James McKelvie. To a degree this is a cheat as this wasn’t reviewed this column, although it was published as one of the first wave of “season one” original graphic novels by Marvel Comics and read during the NYCC this year. The premise was to retell the original 1960’s era of Marvel characters, who by now are painfully dated. Hopeless and McKelvie succeed in this retelling of the first several issues of UNCANNY X-MEN which revolve around Jean Grey as the “every girl” who joins a team led by an eccentric psychic and stocked by four odd and unique boys in Angel, Beast, Iceman and Cyclops. While they battle dinosaurs, Unus the Untouchable, the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants and Magneto, the crux of the trade is in establishing the characters and how Jean sees them, and thus how the audience does. Jean Grey has been a difficult character to translate, as she was essentially “the token girl” of the team, but Hopeless manages to make her more nuanced and neurotic, and thus easier to relate to. The relationships among these founding X-Men are well known, but this work retells and explains them in new and exciting ways. A pleasant surprise, it is worth a read to both casual and hardcore X-Men fans.
Invincible (Robert Kirkman, Ryan Ottley & Cory Walker)
Venom (Rick Remender, Cullen Bunn, Lan Medina & others)
Batman Beyond Unlimited (Adam Beechen & others)
Indestructible Hulk #1-2 (Mark Waid & Lenil Yu)
The Standard #3 (John Lees & Jonathan Rector)
Grubby Little Smudges of Filth (Daniel Reed)
Sanctuary #1-6 (Stephen Coughlin)
Fallen writer of the year: Matt “No Traction” Fraction, after another poor stint on AVENGERS VS. X-MEN and the disappointing DEFENDERS. Second year in a row.
Scandal of the year: DC Comics’ micromanagement and the exodus of creators
Strangest story of the year: Minimum Carnage
Lamest event of the year: Avengers vs. X-Men
Best event of the year: “Ends of the Earth”
Happy New Year, 2013! May the next year bring on more great comics and less terrible comics!